Missions are as much about making memories and living among different cultures as they are about doing the Lord's work. Some of our favorite memories and things we are going to miss:
Flowers - Every day there is a new tree blossoming or a new shrub that blooms. There are red flowers, orange flowers, white flowers, purple flowers. There are large blooming flowers and small intricate ones. They are everywhere. Each Sunday someone signs up to bring the flowers for the pulpit and we are in awe at how beautiful these floral arrangements are and how they invite the spirit to the meeting. Women stop along the side of the street and pick a flower from the tree and put it in their hair. The contrast of the flower's color against their black hair is such a wonderful site.
Beaches/Snorkeling - Almost every weekend we have been able to travel to a beach and enjoy snorkeling. Our favorite spot is Clam Beach in Savaia where we swim, sometimes with a turtle, and float over the giant clams and enjoy their beauty. Other favorites are Nu'umau, Sanddollar, Saleloga Sands, To Sua Trench, and Palolo Deep. Theron and I have both been amazed at how comfortable I am snorkeling. It actually has been soothing to the soul to float in the water and observe fish, turtles, clams, octopus (only Theron), star fish, sea cucumbers, coral and all kinds of other under-the-sea critters. We will miss these weekend activities. We have posted lots of pictures of us snorkeling.
Elder Schaefermeyer wearing his 'ie' (pronounced e-a) - He looks so Samoan in his skirt or 'ie Faitaga' which directly translated means, "cloth with pockets". This is traditional clothing for men and all the men wear these rather than shorts or long pants.
Sandals and Flip-Flops - Neither Theron nor I have had a pair of 'complete closed-in toe' shoes on or socks for as long as we have been here. Theron often tells me that it feels weird to go into the Temple wearing sandals and have to put on socks and shoes.
Kids in school uniforms - Every school has school colors and the student uniforms - dresses for the girls and lava-lava and matching shirt for the boys - are what is required. We see blue and white, red and white, blue and gold/yellow, pink and green, gray and white, and others each school day. There is no fashion statement to be made here; every student complies with the school dress code and colors. We are going to miss seeing these students each day as they happily play and live. Where life isn't about the latest shoe fashion, pant or short fashion and definitely not about skinny jeans, faded jeans or whatever is in today.
Seat belts and car seats don't matter - I remember the time when our kids were free in the car to jump over seats, run around, pick up their own bottles and stick their heads and hands out the windows. The times when we could jump in the back of a pick-up truck and load up the neighborhood to go to the ball game or just enjoy a ride. Well, Samoans can still do this. We love to see whole families sitting in the back of the pickup truck traveling to Church or kids sitting on a parent's lap in the front seat.
Cars adorned with multi-color flashing lights - When we drive at night we love to see the color changing LED lights illuminating the wheels of some of the cars. There are quite a few with flashing LEDs along the bottom of the car that change colors. Some have lights of different colors on their front bumpers. Denzil would love to live here so he could have lights galore all over his car and truck. We also can't forget the buses of multi-colors and varying capacities!
Watching neighborhoods outside playing rugby, volleyball, soccer or cricket! This is amazing. Where our neighborhoods go inside and keep to themselves, the Samoan families come outside and organize a sporting event of some kind nearly every evening except Sunday. Many times the women will be sitting on the ground weaving mats and baskets and the little kids will be watching and even playing in the same game with the older kids or adults. Life is happening here-outside.
The 'no tipping' policy - How I love that everything - taxes, cost, and service fees - are all figured into the price.
Different shades of blue and green of the ocean - As we drive each day, we pass some part of the ocean, after all this is an island. Depending on the color of the sky and the sunlight upon the water, we see varying hues of green, turquoise, brillant blue, subdued bluegray, white, and a myriad of other colors blending together. We will miss these scenes.
The Samoan People - these are
generous, loving and happy people. One day I was watching a woman teach her pre-school and on the table was a bag of mangos. I asked where she had gotten these because mango season was just starting and we hadn't found any for sale yet. Without hesitation, she handed me the bag and said you have these. I declined and told her we would continue to look for some in the market (which many times hurt their feelings) and just a half-hour later saw her cutting these same mangos into pieces to feed to the preschool children for their lunch. She was willing to give me their lunch. During our time here we have learned not to admire something too long because they will end want to give it to you. Yes, we will definitely miss the people the most!